By Jill Briscoe
Say “change” and everyone freezes, screams, or leaves the church. Hardly anyone likes the word, concept, or process. We ministry leaders are perhaps the worst at coping with it, yet we are often subject to such a huge amount of the stuff!
If we serve in a pastorate, we might move every three to five years. And para-church and missionary ministries are often, by their very nature, mobile situations necessitating a flexible lifestyle. How well do we handle change, ‘go with the flow,’ or not drown in the flood of all the practical implications, plus the emotional traumas involved?
Whenever my husband and I are together, we check into our hotel room and I immediately busy myself emptying my entire suitcase into the hotel’s furniture.
“What on earth are you doing?” my husband inquires. “We’re only here overnight!”
“No matter,” I reply cheerily. “Let me ‘nest’ then I’m ready to face the challenge of the day!”
I think it’s this necessity to nest that gives me a clue as to my struggle with ‘change.’ Change interrupts my nesting habits – it intrudes into my comfort zone! I find I don’t want to throw myself into the opportunities that present themselves in a new place because “I’ll be moving on again soon, so why get involved?”
I have learned to fully live where I am by pretending I’ll be there forever! Otherwise I’d never get involved in projects (who will finish them?), or invest myself in someone’s life (it’s too painful saying goodbye), or bother joining anything (I hate leaving things unfinished!) and so on it goes.
Handling change, on the other hand, can be a tremendous catalyst for growth and blessing. What are the elements of this blessing? Let’s use an acrostic:
Challenge – All of us need one of these to get us out of our evangelical rut – which, as someone has aptly said, is really only a grave with the ends knocked out.
Humor – You need a sense of humor – it is absolutely necessary. Change gives you a chance to have a healthy laugh at life, yourself, and everybody else!
Anxiety – Anxiety engendered by change can give us a workshop in trust – something I need at least once a month. Every anxious thought gives me an opportunity to trust God in a way I perhaps never trusted Him before.
Newness – change gives me a new start – a clean page, a new chance to do it right this time.
Growth – Change forces growth in my experiences, ministry opportunities, and in personal skills.
Evaluation – Change forces me to evaluate my life. It makes me ask, “Where have I come from where am I now, and where am I going?”
I hope you will be encouraged to trust God with handling change, including changes in your churches and the ministries you serve.